tv Early Start with Christine Romans and Dave Briggs CNN May 17, 2017 1:00am-2:01am PDT
white house fighting back. senior washington correspondent joe johns starts our coverage from washington. good morning to you, joe. >> reporter: good morning. sources telling cnn that president trump asked former fbi director james comey to end his investigation into the administration's first national security adviser michael flynn who was fired. here's the importance of it. if this latest allegation is proven true it's a sign that president trump attempted to exert command influence on the fbi's investigation into possible collusion between the trump campaign and russia. so this is already being described as a grave turn in the drama surrounding the trump presidency, raising questions of attempted obstruction of justice which in turn raising questions whether it could be high crimes
and misdeamnor and that's a constitutional standard for impeachment of a u.s. president. this memo drafted by the now fired fbi director james comey asking him to shut down the investigation, here's the quote, we haven't seen this memo yet. here's the quote. i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go. he's a good guy. i hope you can let this go. this story first reported by "new york times". the president told comey that flynn did nothing wrong, we're told despite the fact that he was fired for lying to the vice president about his conversations with russian ambassador. sources say this encounter happened after a briefing involving vice president mike pence and attorney general jeff sessions who the president asked to leave the room, according to sources, so that he could speak privately with comey. comey was reportedly so
concerned by the president's comments that he documented the exchange in just one of a number of memos he wrote out of concern. the president was trying to stop the investigation. the white house for its part has flatly denied these allegations saying the president never asked mr. comey or anyone else to end the investigation. this is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and mr. comey. now, we do know a lot of background. in a tweet last week the president threatened comey or at least warned him about potential tapes of their conversations, recordings. comey has actually said he hopes. it exists in order to corroborate his account of what happened. so a lot going on here in washington this morning. and we just have to see what the day brings. >> joe, this fbi director,
former fbi director has a history of writing peopleos. he has a long history of putting things down for the record. do we have any indication when we'll hear from james comey if he is looking forward to or planning to -- if invited if he'll speak to congress or in a speech or to the media? >> he sent signals he's interested in testifying, but the question is under what circumstances. and suggestion has been that the former fbi director would very much like to do any testimony in public and in an open forum and you're certainly right about him writing down memos. i've covered mr. comey for a number of years, and it is his habit as is any good prosecutor and good lawyer to the memorialize information.
very common for lawyers to do that, especially people dealing with criminal cases. so, not surprising that he did this. there's probably a number of other memos that a lot of us certainly in washington, d.c. would be very interested to see. >> joe johns for us in washington. another busy day ahead for you, sir. let's bring in our panel. julian zelizer. david drucker. and michael moore. good morning to all of you. thank you for being here. david drucker, let me start with you. john mccain said last night, quote, this is reaching watergate size and scale. is he correct? >> well, we're going to have to find out what happens today at 5:00 after monday and tuesday. you never know where this thing leads. look, i think what threw a lot of people for a loop here in
d.c., all kidding aside, we have the revelation of a memo that comey prepared. what anybody thinks about comey that he's a grandstander or didn't get the lin investigation correct nobody questioned his honesty. in some ways he was criticized about being too honest. these revelations are very problematic for the administration because even republicans on capitol hill that i was talking to yesterday, they don't want to beat up on the administration. they don't know if it would help them to beat up on the administration. a lot of them are starting to think they don't have a choice. what i would say for the president his major problem is that the story is believable. and it gets to his credibility on issues like this where, you know, with a lot of presidents we expect them at times to skirt the rules, or to walk a fine line, but there are just things we wouldn't expect from them and we sort of do a double take and really research things before we
move forward, and we should do that here. with this president given his behavior over the past four months this sounds like could it have happened. >> michael moore, the legality of this? where does just not managing your message, not managing your brand, not being ready or foibt president where does that end and obstruction of justice begins here? >> in most criminal cases, you look to see whether or not there's criminal intent. and the statute for obstruction that we keep talking about actually calls for a corrupt intent, and in this case i would suggest that that means his actions to kill off the flynn investigation. ultimately that's a decision that has to be made whether in a court or in congress in impeachment proceedings. it's unlikely that the president and scholars debate this unlikely the president could be indicted while he's in office.
so we may be talking more about, if it goes to an impeachment hearing, the congress, the house of representatives would make their minds on whether or not there was evidence here to support an obstruction case. >> mark, let me ask you did james comey do the right thing? many asked why didn't he immediately go to congress? >> i think he did the right thing. there's nothing unusual what he did. he documented contemporaneously with the act. there's nothing unusual about that. he protected an investigation. it allowed him to continue with the investigation without blowing the lid off of it over something he felt like at the time he could control and protect himself and the bureau and the investigation by way of the memo. >> that's an important distinction. >> what about the response from republicans here in congress? the president really kind of had the perfect mix when he came in. he won the presidency.
he had both chambers. he had a really good, all the ingredients for success. now it will be up to the republicans to decide what happens next. >> those rare moments when you have unified government are terrific for a party because you gate lot of legislation, you change the agenda. none of that has happened. so the question is do the republicans who still control both chambers and in the house they are very conservative republicans, will they open up a more thorough investigation and will they move somewhere towards considering impeachment. we don't know that yet. what we do know is that between the least of the classified iformation to the russians and this comey memo that is being circulated and discussed more republicans are saying something is wrong and something needs done. that's the first break in the republican fire wall that i've seen in the first 100 days plus. >> don't go away. we'll talk about that release of information to the russians after this break. >> we haven't even talked about
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welcome back to "early start". before we learned president trump asked james comey to drop the michael flynn investigation the white house is already dealing with the president's sharing of classified information with the russians in the oval office. we've since learned israel was the source of some of the isis bomb making information that the president revealed to foreign minute certificate sergei lavrov and ambassador sergey kislyak. officials warned israeli counterparts to be careful what they tell the white house fearing it could be leaked to the kremlin and passed on to iran. >> now countries are reassessing
their intelligence sharing with the united states. this could impact the president's upcoming trip overseas which includes a stop in israel. let's start with h.r. mcmasters explanation of what the president relayed to the russians in the oval office. here he is. >> what the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation. he shares information in a way that's wholly appropriate. he made a decision in the context of the conversation when i was wholly approprate. michael moore, was it wholly appropriate what the president ad libbed to share with the russians in the oval office. >> i'll say no. i'll give you this caveat. the president is under the law to declassify information he deems appropriate. the problem here is that i think the president was shooting off the cuff and may have very well put some of our allies,
intelligence sources at risk. from that angle i will tell now. i feel sorry for h.r. mcmaster out there. he's had a long and distinguished career. he's put out front to explain why the president couldn't control his mouth in a meeting that shouldn't have happened in the first place. >> what's your read on that, david drucker. mcmaster trying be the grown-up and show there's a national security apparatus around this president, getting ready for this big trip but keep getting knocked off message by the commander-in-chief himself. >> no matter how good your team is and the president has, to his credit put together a very good national security team in place, if the guy at the top doesn't want to take direction it doesn't matter how good your team is. what i thought was interesting about mcmasters explanation it was subjective. he said over and over again what the president did was wholly appropriate. and went on to describe it in
other ways but didn't debunk the stories about revealing classified intelligence inappropriately per our relationship with the source. and nothing that mcmaster said had anything to do with that. it was more or less the president made a decision he wanted to discuss this and so he did. it's legal and the president can choose to make those determinations. it didn't do anything to undermine the story. if you're an ally of the united states and providing intelligence and you don't expect the intelligence to be revealed, tomorrow to a u.s. adversary, then the whole thing is problematic and the reason we were able to find out about this is because it wasn't contained within the oval office. they went after the fact, the administration did in trying to do clean up duty. so they knew it was a problem. i think the issue for the president is whether or not he understands these things and it sort of gets us back to the point i was making with the
issue of the comey memo. when we first started hearing what the president discussed with the russians nobody looked at themselves in the mirror and said this can't be true because this president would know better and wouldn't do something like that. this is a president who for better or worse and it worked for him on the campaign trail with a lot of voters who were disgusted with washington and felt the smart experts let them down who decided he didn't need to do all of the prep that most candidates do. so he literally is learning on the job not just because he's a first time politician not been elected to anything before but he didn't do any of the prep that might have put himself in a better position to handle these situations. >> at the tail of that h.r. mcmaster press conference he left the reporters with their jaws dropped the president didn't know the source of this information. julian, let me ask you as we turn to the president's first trip abroad. you say there's some historical
perspective on presidents going abroad in the midst of scandal. >> the best comparison is when richard nixon went to the middle east in june of 1974 at the height of the watergate investigation, also trying to broker some kind of peace agreement, do something dramatic to take attention away from what's going on here in the united states. but that's almost impossible to the. so presidents sometimes try to do this. they try to distract or move the conversation to something bold or something bigger but it's very hard when back in the united states the story is corruption and confident, all of this swirling around in a potent mix. >> the idea that maybe you'll be taped if you have a heart to heart with president trump. you don't know. he drops these hints or warnings. it's remarkable. everybody sit tight. we want to talk a little bit about the president making no secret of his disdain for leakers and his suggestion to james comey about how to handle
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as we've been reporting james comey memo says the president asked comey to end the michael flynn investigation. >> "new york times" reports the president began that discussion with comey which condemning media leaks and said the fbi should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information. when we start talking about reporters going to jail we like to bring in bob stelter. i want to read exactly what was in this "new york times" piece. alone in the oval office mr. trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to news media saying mr. comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information according to one of mr. comey's associates.
that's remarkable. >> obviously press freedom groups alarmed by this saying the comment like this from the president crosses a dangerous line. i think it's noteworthy, the white house has not commented, not refuted, not denied this aspect of the "new york times" story. there's been no push back denying the president said this. so if he is, in fact, in private conversations saying let's lock up the journalists for publishing this sensitive information, some of the leaks coming out of the white house it goes to show the president's mindset, his mood, how angry and paranoid he is about the leaks coming out of his own administration. >> these are tactics we've from strong man authoritarian, erdogan who is in town. >> jailing journalists. >> the last eight days disney jig. how is the conservative media
handing the last eight days and last 24 hours. >> there are situations where pro trump commentators don't know how to react to some of these stories. they are silenced at first and then strange denials or deflection. we've seen from some from the conservative media some noble reaction in the last day or two, this one-two punch in the "the washington post," "new york times" that left the white house reeling. there's a lot of attention this morning in this morning's newspaper, a conservative editorial board saying mr. trump needs to appreciate how close he is to losing the republicans he needs to pass his agenda. that will determine if he's successful. the article went on to say millions of americans recognize mr. trump was a risk worth taking. it went on to say loose lips sink presidencies. pretty bold statement. >> you can see how if you're a trump supporter that the leaks
from intelligence community, the president has been at war with for some time, you know put out there, then, by a media that's against the president too. he can spin it in his populist way that he won the election that way. >> two things on that. number one i was surprised by eric ericcson's column on sound. he's well represented in gop circles. he said i know one of the sources about the story about russians in the oval office. this person is a trump supporter who is deeply concerned about what's going on and trying to help the president. it's not just anti-trump sources, not just obama officials who are leaking information to the press. it's people trying to blow the whistle, trying to help this administration. number one. number, two it's unusually quiet as you just alluded to. the silence from the white house, from trump and his aides has really been deafening the past 11 hours.
the story came out in the "new york times," we heard almost nothing from the white house. not the usual spin. not the usual push back. maybe that's because the lawyers are advising the president not to comment. maybe for once he put the phone down and decided not to tweet. >> the president has put a lot of pressure on his communications office. watch twitter. a rare message from washington. >> enough is enough. congress needs to get to the bottom of this. >> this daily dose of controversy, of scandal, of instability is bad for the government and i think it's also very taxing on the american people. >> the very latest on the president's possible obstruction and that russian probe. that's next. struggle with which ones to make. well, what if you kept making good ones?
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. watching the. clinton, thought i would never see another one. we're in impeachment for the first time. >> the white house reaching new levels of damage control this morning. did this president obstruct justice by asking james comey to forget about the michael flynn investigation. >> welcome back to "early start". i'm dave briggs. >> i'm christine romans. we welcome all of our viewers here in the u.s. and around the world. in the clearest sign yet president trump tried to pressure the justice department over the russian investigation, sources familiar with the matter asked james comey to end the fbi investigation into former national security adviser michael flynn. >> sources say comey was so appalled he documented the president agencies request a short time later and shared it with senior fbi officials. triggering immediate alarm on capitol hill. >> even republicans expressing extreme concern, oversight
committee chairman jason chaffetz asking the fbi to hand over everything related between comey and the president by a week from today even threatening a subpoena. the white house all hands on deck fighting back despite it's own compromised credibility. senior washington correspondent joe johns begins our coverage this morning from washington. good morning, joe. >> reporter: good morning. certainly questions about whether the president may have obstructed justice here. we do know, according to our reporting, and also first reported by the "new york times" that president trump apparently asked former fbi director james comey to end his investigation into the trump administration's first national security adviser michael flynn who was fired. if this allegation is true it's a clear sign yet the president attempted to exert some influence over the fbi's investigation in inclusion between trump campaign and
russia already described as a grave turn in the drama. there you can see the quote that has been lifted out of the memo which we haven't seen. and first reported by the "new york times" but sources have told us that the president essentially said i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go. he is a good guy. i hope you can let this go. so, that in a nutshell is the thing that's got washington spinning right now. republicans on capitol hill have been largely silent so far with a few notable exceptions, the speaker of the house has said, he agrees with an assertion that was made by the chairman of the house oversight committee who said that he will subpoena, if necessary, to get this document written by comey and other information, including perhaps recordings which the president
has suggested have been head. other republicans outside of capitol hill including the governor of ohio, john kasich who once was a member of congress and was a leading critic during the campaign of president trump have said they need to get to the bottom of it. listen. >> speaker ryan said some things tonight about getting to the bottom line. frankly i think he should be more aggressive. i think he should speak out more. this is not a time for republicans to hide. and i also don't think it's a time for democrats to exploit. >> also the white house has flatly denied the allegations of this conversation between the fbi director, the now former fbi director and the president. they say this just simply did not happen, the conversation did not happen. white house certainly in a difficult position right now simply because of questions of
credibility, not just in this case but in numerous other cases. so tough for them as they get ready to go with the president on his first foreign trip at the end of the week. >> joe johns live for us in d.c. thank you, sir. let's bring in our panel. julian zelizer. david drucker. and michael moore. good morning to all of you. thank you for being here. david, let's start with you. until this turns into a criminal issue, this is a political issue. and with the exception of john mccain saying this is the size and scale of watergate some supporters last night to joe johns point relative silence. you we're about this in the "washington examiner". what are you hearing from republicans on the hill regarding the last 24 hours, regarding the last eight days. >> they are very frustrated and very concerned. i talked to republicans and as a
regular practice i talk to them about this particular topic often, trump what are they going to do about trump, how they feel about trump. what they have learned over the course of many months is trump is often besieged by apparent scandal or apparent difficulty and always seems to weather the storm. he keeps his loyal base. republican voters so far have not abandoned him. so they've in some ways become decencytized to these sorts of things. this time they tell me they are worried, they don't know if he can weather this and this was before the story was reported about the comey memo. the issue with the russians and the leaking of information or sharing of information to russians in that oval office meeting had a concern because it suggested a level of foreign policy and competence and foreign policy and national security was one issue, one area where a lot of republicans outside of trump's loyal base and independent voters had been
concerned about trump's fitness to serve as commander-in-chief. they are worried about this thing getting out of control. then you add this level of this sort of new level of political urgency with the comey memo. we started to see republicans from house districts that hillary clinton won begin to speak out. we saw the wording of jason cha fe -- chaffetz memo. so it's not as vocal as some people would prefer a lot of concern and trying to figure out what to do. it's not an easy answer. if you attack the president and you're a republican the blow back could be heavy if you don't have all your ducks in a row and haven't figured out where your voters are on this. it could be counter productive. if you don't do nothing you look like an enabler. republicans are trying to assess where things are here so they can figure out their next move. trust me they are not happy about this and very aware of
what's going. >> julian, so interesting to david's point donald trump almost was a hostile take over of the republican party. he managed to really change, change the priorities and the agenda of this party and now people who have come along with him have to figure out how they will manage it. >> you can imagine where the republicans were about a week and a half ago. they received almost no legislative after the 100 days. finally health care passed the house and hoping senator mcconnell could put something together. very eager for a big tax cut that was on the way. and then boom, all of a sudden the week's news changed. they are looking at 2018 and politically they are saying where are we going to be if we have nothing to show other than a president in the mid. a scandal or even worse impeached. some are not just political they are genuinely worried about what they are seeing especially with the release of the classified
information. can he govern? that's the question on the minds of many republicans this morning. >> the question on the minds of legal scholars, michael moore, does this fit the definition of centrifuge? -- obstruction of justice? >> obstruction of justice is a little vague. somebody has to have a corrupt intent to influence an investigation. i think what they would look like in this case is whether or not the president's corrupt intent was evidence by his efforts to get comey as comey's superior to back down off of the investigation. we talked about this. the president is unlikely to be indicted. the law is relatively clear on that as some scholars argue to the contrary. but this kocould become somethi
determined by the justice department. i heard you say democracy dies in the dark. so i think that when we see a leader start to shut down our press and access to information, we do it at our own peril for not standing up. so i appreciate what you do. i think the fact that we dot a president talking about closing down the press, confidences, putting the media in jail is a bad sign of things to come. >> we also need an investigation outside of the press. we need a thorough congressional investigation, independent investigation. the press is essential, but on its own this is not how we're going to have satisfying democratic investigation into the gravest issue that we face as a democracy. >> 35%, 40% doesn't believe any
of this, any of these reports, they believe it's fake news. to our viewers just joining us, michael moore made clear james comey did the right thing in not going to congress immediately and documents exactly what was said in that conversation. so we'll get back with all of you in just a moment. a long history of writing it down for the record so he can make sure in the moment that he has his facts. all you sit tight. all of this a distraction after the president shared classified intel with russia. turns out the intel was from israel. how will that leak affect the president's trip there in a few days? ♪ approaching medicare eligibility? you may think you can put off checking out your medicare options until you're sixty-five, but now is a good time to get the ball rolling.
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for something that finally relieves your pain, icyhot lidocaine. desensitizes aggravated nerves with the max strength lidocaine available. icyhot lidocaine. before we learned president trump asked james comey to drop the michael flynn investigation the white house was already dealing with the president's sharing of classified information with the russians. a remarkable 48 hours here,
folks. we've since learned israel was the source of some of the isis bomb making information that the president revealed to the russians in the oval office. >> newspapers in israel reported months ago u.s. officials warn israeli counterparts to be careful about what they tell this white house, fearing it could be leaked to the kremlin and passed on to iran. >> let's bring back our panel. david drucker, listen quickly to what h.r. mcmaster said about just how wholly appropriate it was for the president yesterday to reveal that information. >> the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation. he shares information in a way that's wholly appropriate. he made the decision in the context of the conversation which was wholly appropriate. >> i wonder what heads of state are going to be feeling when they meet with the president in the next few days on his trip abroad? >> right. i think the problem for the administration potentially is this administration over the past seven to ten days looks
like it's out of control and rudderless and a victim of its own making but a victim of events of its own making the mishandling of the comey firing, now this issue with the russians and comey memo. it all goes together to show a white house in crisis that doesn't look like a white house that's in charge, in control of events and even in control of its own party on capitol hill and i think that that is going to be something that the president will have to answer for overseas. he might be able to do something about it. he might have an opportunity to reset matters. this presents challenges because this is his first foreign trip. he's not used to things like this. we saw what happened in this oval office meeting with the russian ambassador, something happened that was not supposed to happen that's causing him heart burn. >> two notions of wholly appropriate. was firing james comey the president said i can fire anyone i want any time i want. he's correct in that. he can reveal classified information whenever he deems it
appropriate. that's the role of the president. what's the cover with these latest allegations. how does the president in the words of the "daily news" make all of this go away? >> i don't know that he's got any cover in the latest allegations with comey and the memo. comey basically wrote a memo contemple possib po ra nporaneo conversation. >> julian, we're watching history being written here. put it in context for me. this is a remarkable 48 hours but remarkable 118 days. >> any impeachment is a historic mark in the evolution of our democracy. it moves in that direction it certainly is historic.
but even the moment we're in where you see all this unfolding, this very dramatic and important investigation into russia, this problem with handling information and paralyzed president, a politically paralyzed president unfolding before our eyes with him tweeting about it every morning i think will be something that marks in american politics we're witnessing. you don't know how this is going to play out and what the political aftermath will be. that's not where we land it. we need to see if our institutions can step up. congress that's been gridlocked and dysfunctional can they step up and help us understand what happens next. >> are these things that text books one day will be written about. thank you all for being with us this morning. is jailing journalists the way to stop leaks with clasped information? president trump seems to think so. more of what he told james comey when bob stelter drops by.
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welcome back to "early start". as we've been reporting james comey memo says the president asked comey to end the michael flynn investigation. >> "new york times" reports the president reported james comey memo on the president's request to end the michael flynn investigation, another big item to digest here. >> the "new york times" reporting mr. trump also asked mr. comey to potentially jail journalists that publish leaks. bob stelter is with us this morning. brian, this is a shocking revelation that barely got traction in the midst of this dizzying day. >> there's so much news. among the details in this blockbuster "new york times" story is trump said to comey he should consider putting
reporters in prison who report classified information. that would be a drastic change of events in this country. there have been prosecutions by past administrations especially the obama administration of the leakers of classified information. but not of the journalists themselves. some press freedom groups have been concerned we might reach this points, president trump might take through. so far it's hasn't happened. been all words not action. in this story we have the president making threats. the white house has not pushed back or denied this account. frankly they have a lot on their plate that they have not addressed. but i think it goes to speak to the president's mood, his mindset, just how frustrated, furious he is about these ongoing leaks. there's leaks about classified information and leaks about the drama inside the white house. two different kinds of leaks. >> he blames the communication office for what's been going on. >> he seems to blame everyone but himself. >> he's an avid consumer of the
new york tabloids. >> one of his favorites. >> he won't like what he sees in the paper. headlines top of the fold in every major american newspaper about the comey memo. >> this one in the "daily news" can be taken two ways. goes with make it go away which either can refer to either flynn or the president. "daily news" has been a critic of the president. we're starting to hear the "i" word impeachment. that may be premature. but in left leaning outlets it's gaining some attention. middle of the road, even right leaning editorial boards at the "wall street journal" the headlines this morning is loose lips sink presidencies. kind of taking all of these stories together. >> it's remarkable that mr. trump needs to appreciate how close he is to losing republicans to pass the agenda to determines if he's successful. millions of americans recognize his flaws but decided avenues
risk worth taking. be interesting to see how republicans and how conservative media over the next couple of days. >> what will determine the narrative? >> right now, i think a lot of folks don't know what to make of it. a lot of right leaning commentators or conservative talk show hosts are down playing the importance of the news. the president's own behavior is telling. we haven't seen a tweet storm. maybe we will later today. the president is scheduled to speak at 11:00 a.m. at a commencement address. other than that no public events. it will be the president himself that determines what happens next. >> just check twitter to make sure there's not another 40 character response from the president. not just yet. bob stelter, a busy day for you. >> thank you for joining us. i'm christine romans. >> i'm dave briggs. "new day" starts right now. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world.
this is an early edition of "new day," wednesday, may 17th, 5:00 here in new york. we begin with breaking news. another bomb shell out of the white house, president trump asks fbi director james comey to drop the fbi investigation into former national security adviser michael flynn. this according to a memo written by comey before he was fired. >> the white house issuing a furious denial, but this is now going to be an issue of credibility. whom will america believe? the president or former director of the fbi? this is the clearest evidence that president trump tried to directly influence an investigation in the links between his campaign and russia. democrats warning this could be obstruction of justice, this could be grounds for impeachment. so it comes down to votes and the republicans. we have it all covered for you. let's begin our coverage with j
washington. >> reporter: sources telling cnn president trump asked former fbi director james comey to end his investigation into the former national security adviser michael flynn. if proven true the clearest sign yet that the president tried to influence the fbi's investigation into possible coordination between the trump campaign and russia. this is in many ways a grave turn in the drama surrounding the trump presidency and a big moment in the investigation. another bomb shell in 24 hours. the besieged trump white house facing accusations of obstruction of justice that could lead to impeachment at least in theory. a memo drafted by now fired fbi director james comey details president trump asking him to shut down the michael flynn investigation during a february meeting in the oval office saying i hope you can see your way clear to letting this